Even from beyond the grave, celebrities are not like the plebian folk. Consider the latest technology in normal-person body disposal: it’s a system whereby some Swede freeze-dries your corpse, shoots you with sound vibrations until you shatter and sweeps the resulting dust into a shallow cornstarch grave—for an extra tenner or two, your family can buy some shrubs that will feed on your leftovers. Fine for commoners perhaps, but is that really how you imagine Angelina Jolie to shuffle off this mortal coil?
Fame should be like an episode of Six Feet Under—death just gets the story moving. Whether it’s having your final remains fireworked Gonzo-style by Johnny Depp or rocketed into the final frontier, a properly managed postmortem career can attract the kind of media attention and public adoration that one could never achieve in life. The public grief that rushes forth after the passing of a famous person, combined with the guarantee that said person can now never get caught blowing a tranny coke whore, should generate enough goodwill (read: cash) to last for years, even decades. I’ll have you know that Elvis cleared forty-mil last year, and John Lennon, Marilyn, Tupac, Jimmy Hendrix are all currently earning more than 99.99% of the world’s living population.
This kind of zombie success doesn’t just happen on its own. Living celebrities need covens of unscrupulous flakes to manage their images—why would it be any different for dead ones? After all, letting nature run its course can have disastrous results. Example? One Vladimir I. Lenin. At first it seemed that he was a success for the ages: a great embalming job, a hot-hot-hot Red Square mausoleum, the admiration of throngs of state-mandated mourners. He even had a guy to change his suits for him. Alas, after a short eighty-odd years in a glass box his own countrymen are now talking about sticking him into some coffin and burying him underground with a bunch of non-Communism-inventing nobodies.
Post-croaking tragedies like Vladimir’s are preventable, thank goodness, with a little planning by a proper death stylist. Allow me to recommend my services—I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I’ve come up with some innovative après-vie concepts that I think you’re going to love. For instance, let’s talk Cher. Cher, baby, I’ve got one word for you—reliquary. And girl, I am not talking about one of those tacky medieval snuffboxes either. Think tasteful, neutral colours and an über-modern design to house whatever miraculous body part that remains and is still real (a finger, maybe?). Think about it—suppliants make a pilgrimage to touch your miracle-performing finger that’s housed in sleek, understated luxury and that forever plays a dirgeful, minor-key version of “Believe.” Let’s see that bitch Streisand try and top that.
Or, for someone a little showier (say, Richard Simmons) there’s the funeral “blow-out” option. Just like the celebrity wedding, the celebrity wake can have the potential to propel a person from barely mourned blip to a subject worthy of full AP and Reuters coverage. Doing something incendiary with the ashes (fireworks, rocket ships) is really big right now but for next season I’m seeing something in an ash fountain or an ash-coated Zen reflecting pool. Or how about a skywriting plane filled with ashes that will simultaneously spread your remains over the sea and communicate a final message to fans and loved ones? Keep in mind that if cremation isn’t in the cards, you could always go animatronic.
Celebrities looking to class-up their images a little after passing (Courtney Love, I’m looking at you ...) should consider one of the many tasteful mausoleum options available today. Don’t be restrained by old-fashioned notions of what should and shouldn’t adorn your final resting place—be creative! Let your personality shine. Considering a giant marble statue of yourself? Why not bling it up with some ice and/or rims? A little bit of neon can really make a gravesite pop. I’m thinking about Jim Morrison here—on top of being stuck in dusty old Père Lachaise, he’s got a totally boring tombstone concept. You can’t even tell his grave from losers like Molière and Balzac. It’s fortunate for him that his stylists have made sure American teens know to leave fake flowers or write graffiti as a token of respect for the dead.
Another important job of the postmortem stylist is to work with the family and rights-holders to ensure that any after-death celebrity profits are funneled into the right pockets. Because let’s be honest here—if you’re a star of a certain calibre, somebody somewhere is going to be making money from T-shirts with your face and date of death printed on them. Why not ensure that that someone is the corporation that owns your likeness and not some copyright-infringing scum? Also, in the same way that newspapers write up obits years in advance, it’s a good idea to have a couple warehouses of branded ringer tees and an updated memoir on hand.
So you see, those in the profession of promoting the dead could provide an important service that no celebrity would want to be without when they walk up that red carpet in the sky. Just like your assistant chef or your yoga nanny, your postmortem stylist will be there for you in those crucial times when you’ve got nobody else except your personal assistants, bodyguards, regular stylists, agents and PR people. And also, you’re dead.
Audrey Ference tries her darndest to keep up with what the kids are into these days. Her column appears every two weeks. Read other recent columns by Audrey Ference.